At first I had only planned on visiting Kiev in Ukraine, but once there everyone told me that I could not leave the country without visiting Odessa and Lviv. Odessa is the fourth biggest city, located far east near the Russian occupied peninsula of Crimea and known for its opera house and art nouveau architechtural style old town which I saw in just about an hour. The cities waterfront was mainly beaches, which were not that attractive with the 17 minusdegrees, so I jumped on a sixteen hour, seven dollar train ride to Lviv (or Lvov as the Ukrainians call it).
Lviv was much more my kind of city. It was also THE Christmas city in Ukraine, and since I was there during Russian Orthodox Christmas (from January 6th) there were plenty of things going on. The main streets were full of huts selling mulled wine, snacks and street food. An ice skating rink was put up in the city center and lots of people were walking through the streets. Lviv is the cultural capital of Ukraine and it’s old town is a UNESCO heritage site. The city is known for producing chocolate and beer and it’s sights are mainly it’s cathedrals and it’s enormous semetary, which could be called the Recoleta of the east. This together with the brewery and nightlife which it is so famous for was worth spending a few days before crossing over to Western Europe by train.
For those of you who are planning on visiting Lviv you cannot leave there without having visited some of the themed bars and restaurants that the city is so famous for.
I started my evening out with a visit to the Jewish restaurant “Under the Golden Rose”, right next to the synnagoge by the same name. What was so special about the restaurant was that the menus had no prices. All prices were negotiable, so after I had finished my rabbit salad and beer I was asked to pay ten dollars. After some rounds back and forth I got the meal for only 4 dollars, a used ski lift pass, some foreign coins and a lip balm that I had in my pocket. I had made a proper bargain and I was offered to wear a kippah with curls hanging down from the sides, which I kindly declined as I thought it all then would be kind of insulting, even though it was not kosher and run by Jews. The menu also provided information about the Jewish history which I thought was nice to read while I waited by myself.
Next up was Kryjivka, which tried to seem like a secret base for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) who were fighting both the Soviet and the Nazi’s during WWII for a united, independent and mono ethnic Ukraine. Ukrainian nationalists in other words. Upon entering the bar you are requires to say the phrase Slavo Ukraine literally meaning hail Ukraine. You are also asked where you are from and if you have any Russians with you, who to them and most Ukrainians is the enemy.
When they finally let you through the doors they give you a shot of moonshine from a pocket flask and take you down the cellar which is filled with guns and other artifacts from WWII. Prices are cheap and I thought the atmosphere was good even though I am strongly against what the UPA stands for, which I see more as a play that is considered okay in the culture of Western Ukraine.
In the restaurant they also have be guns standing ready to shoot at posters of the previous, Russian friendly president and Vladimir Putin himself.
In the end of the night me and two locals I had met in Krijevka had manned ourself up to visit another theme pub called Masoch which by the name you would probably understand what was all about. Here the staff walked around with whips, which they used frequently at the guests. If you did not tip properly or upset the staff in any way, they would also have methods of punishing you properly. Which included handcuffs, candles, ice cubes etc all for display of all guests in the bar. I was just keeping quiet and trying to not get any attention, and got away with just one whip on the way out.
My night ended after this by getting beat up and robbed on the street, but there were also other popular theme bars like Eternity– a bar inside the Worlds biggest coffin where customers are supposed to go to drink themselves to death. House of Legends with seven floors where each room holds the decoration for one legend (apparently also hilarious toilets) and the Most Expensive Galican Restaurant (to scare away people who do not belong to the club) where a man in a bath robe will greet you and ask if you wanted to have dinner with him. Inside the theme is a Freemason club where the toilet is the Masonic chair/the Freemason throne.
Kiev is a place that can easily give you a wow factor when you arrive. Coming from Belarus and the Baltics I thought the cities had a lot of huge churches, but Kiev easily beat them all. All over the city there are huge ones with golden onion like tops, usually lit up in the night and well blended in with the modern buildings.
Because unlike Belarus, Ukraine has been trying to break free from Russia and look more towards Europe, so it is a popular tourists destination for a lot of Europeans. When it is even cheaper than the Baltics and Belarus and has both traditional and modern restaurants and bars it is the perfect place to celebrate New Years Eve. Even on a regular weekday you would find a lot of people in the like huge clubbing complexes like “Shooters” if you want to meet foreigners or “Arena” if you speak a little Russian and want to meet mostly young locals.
During the days there was plenty to see too. Kiev has an interesting museum where they have the smallest of everything. Most things were made during the cold war when Soviet wanted to show that they could have the superlatives of everything and in the museum you see everything under magnifying glasses, like the Worlds smallest book. They also got a National Patriotic War museum and one in memory of the genocide that happened here during the Soviet Union.
One place that I liked in particular was the Lavra Cave church where you could walk through tunnels filled with dead people in glass coffins that Russian orthodox Christians would kiss and pray to. The whole area was huge and at the end of it there was a giant statue earlier called “Mother Russia”, but had after been renamed “Mother Motherland”. I have celebrated New Years on many cities and countries, but so far Kiev has been the best.
I just discovered a genius way of displaying all posts on a Google Map using Map My Posts. The widget works with WordPress and can be downloaded from this page. It is really easy to install and simple for people to use. It simply groups your posts by country and add them to a clickable map like the one below:
I am also using a similar Wordpress widget called Map Route, which will be able to show you where I am going next:
[route height=”500″ width=”900″]
Vikings in Australia
1feb-21feb: Sydney to Alice Springs
21feb-13mar: Alice Springs to Perth
13mar-3apr: Perth to Broome
Vikings in Asia 1-15may: Stavanger to Krakow
15may-1.jun: Krakow to Split
1jun-15jun: Split to Tirana
15jun-1jul: Tirana to Istanbul
15jul-1aug: Istanbul to Kayseri
1aug-15aug: Kayseri to Kutaisi
15aug-1sep: Kutaisi to Baku
1sep-15sep: Baku to Samarkand
15sep-1oct: Samarkand to Bishkek
Vikings in Antartica Dec: Ushuaia to Antartica
Vikings in (South) America
Jan-Dec: Alaska to Chile